The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
The Greatest of Escapes
There is something soothing about old-world charm. Could it be the ornate architecture that gives the feeling that whomever created it was a true craftsman? Is it the underlying sophistication of the specific era? Or is it simply a tiny bit of nostalgia for how all things ‘used to be’. In 1940 The Ritz-Carlton, Boston embodied the finest luxury experience, a little Yankee ingenuity and the social sensibilities of the city. These fine traditions of service, dining, and facilities have been the benchmark for all Ritz-Carlton hotels since and with this level of luxury comes a weekend of pure enjoyment.
A weekend at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi for some luxurious rest and relaxation is a weekend when you will discover what the true meaning of ‘pampering’ means. Where else can you stay where Ladies and Gentlemen are serving Ladies and Gentlemen?
Upon arrival, being greeted by name was a new experience for me. We were ushered inside and escorted to the Club Lounge for check in. With Club Level reservations you get access to the top-floor Club Lounge to avail panoramic creek views, continuous culinary offerings throughout the day and dedicated concierge and butler service. It was here that we were told that our luggage was on its way to the room, but if we wanted to take a bit of time to relax with some afternoon cocktails, all we had to do was to help ourselves from the assortment that was available in the lounge.
Club Level Exclusivity
Located in a Venetian-styled building separate from the main hotel, our Club Executive Suite room over looked the lush gardens and sandy beach as well as all of The Grand Canal. The suites, starting at the Executive level are a comfortable 907 square feet and offer a luxurious living room, a bedroom with a king size bed, and a bathroom appointed with a separate rain shower and a soaker tub.
There was also complimentary overnight shoeshine service, housekeeping attention twice daily instead of the usual one, and through the Club Lounge we also had complimentary pressing of 2 items of clothing every day; which I made use of for our first night as the linen suit I had packed was in dire need after being in the suitcase.
The combination of intimacy, comfort and exclusivity with all the personalized service and attention to detail was making Club Level feel like it will be a necessity at whatever subsequent properties I call home while traveling.
A Vibrant Asian Market
No matter where you start your culinary journey at the Ritz-Carlton, it is inevitable that by the time you leave, you will have circumnavigated the entire globe. From the aromas of a bustling Asian street market of Li Jiang to the high end take on a traditional sports bar of Sorso you’ll be hard pressed to find something that doesn’t fit whatever time of day.
Our first night, we had reservations at Li Jiang. Adorned in the rich color palate of Southeast Asia, Li Jiang offers up an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare anything from traditional rice and noodles to dim sum. During the cooler months, I would recommend sitting on the patio amongst the olive trees to admire the phenomenal view of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. As it was extremely warm and humid…we opted for inside instead.
We started with some light appetizers, one from both the hot and cold sections of the menu just to mix it up a bit and accompanied those with one of the many wines from the impressive wine list. Main courses originated from Malaysia to Vietnam and after careful consideration we found a couple that certainly did not disappoint. (Read the Li Jiang Full Review Here)
Feeling satisfied that we had toured all of Southeast Asia that we could for one sitting, we adjourned for the evening. Seated comfortably on the balcony, we enjoyed a bottle of Rosé as the boats drifted back and forth on the Grand Canal.
One Day of Escapism
The following day began with breakfast in the Club Lounge over-looking the Grand Canal. The chef at the personalized live cooking station prepared eggs as you liked them while an assortment of pastries, and cold cuts added to the European selections on offer.
From our elevated position we could see that people began to make their way out to the pool, taking refuge in the private cabanas and sunbeds that lined the perimeter. We were dressed for the pool, so after a second cup of gourmet Illy coffee, we set out for our cabana.
The 17,220 square foot swimming pool caters to everybody at any age. The shaded bit under canvas sails was no more than an inch or so deep and allowed smaller children to splash about while parents looked on. There was also a designated children’s area with fountains and sprinklers should the smaller tikes want a bit more frivolity. For kids aged four to 12, there is also RitzKids which offers activities every day from 9am to 6pm, check the Ritz-Carlton website for the daily activity list as it is subject to change.
As for us ‘older kids’ we found a shady cabana and made ourselves comfortable for the remainder of the morning with the occasional dip in the pool.
Lunch time rolled around and since it was quite warm, something light was what we would be requiring for our mid-day meal.
Outdoor dining doesn’t get any easier than Al Fresco, the pool and beachside outdoor dining venue. Featuring salads and sandwiches it is just what you’ll want to help combat the afternoon sun…that and possibly a cocktail or two from the drinks menu.
There is an interior dining area if you wish to abate the sun for a bit. For the sun-goddesses out there, don’t worry - some of the sandwiches and Mexican choices can be delivered directly to you via bicycle from the restaurant in a ‘box’, guaranteeing that you won’t lose one ray of glorious sunshine.
As I was staying during Ramadan, the evening meal had us reservations at Iftar. Traditional fare lined the serving areas of Giornotte, the all-day dining restaurant. Normally the Mediterranean venue, it was decorated for the Holy Month with silk table cloths, Arabic lanterns and had a traditional Kanoon player.
Our evening came to a close here and after a day in the sun it was straight back to the room for another quiet night on the balcony.
Leaving It All Behind
Checking out on Saturday was a rough ordeal. Not because it was difficult, time consuming, or frustrating but because we knew that it was back to reality. Having a break is needed every now and again and I think that everybody needs it. But when your break from the hustle and bustle is at the Ritz-Carlton, it just seems like the next day isn’t going to be as bright.
From the best of the best restaurants on offer to the outstanding service and friendliness of the staff, a stay anywhere else is going to have to really set out to impress me. From the time I arrived to the time I drove away there was always someone smiling and offering assistance in some way. From my rearview mirror I saw the valet waving as I drove down the inclined driveway away from the main entrance.
To all the Ladies and Gentlemen I met over the weekend and assisted in any way you could, thank you all for a great escape. I will be returning one day. I will see you all very soon.